Estonians for Europe

National Activism for European Integration, 1922–1991

by Pauli Heikkilä (Author)
©2014 Monographs 216 Pages


Estonians for Europe provides a unique insight into nearly eighty years of the history surrounding European unification. Concentrating on Estonian aspirations for an integrative organization in international relations, the book illustrates a number of parallels and differences between commonly held narratives of twentieth-century European history.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction. Expanding the History of European Integration
  • Part I. Paneuropean Discussion in Estonia
  • Chapter 1. Paneuropean Union in Estonia
  • Chapter 2. Diplomatic Means
  • “This is the Aim of the Existing League of Nations”
  • Briand’s Proposal of European Federation
  • Chapter 3. Economic Consequences
  • “Desire to Liberate Oneself from American Economic Hegemony”
  • Interlude of Regional Unions
  • Chapter 4. Cultural Premises
  • “It Demands a Common Spiritual Level for all Member Nations”
  • The Promise and Problem of the Baltic Region
  • Chapter 5. The Disintegrating 1930s
  • Tõnisson and Pusta in Geneva in September 1931
  • The Sunset of the Paneuropean Cross
  • The Rise of the Swastika
  • Chapter 6. Common Estonian Features in the Discussion
  • Part II. Nazi New Europe and The Occupied Estonia
  • Chapter 1. Totalitarian Europe
  • Chapter 2. Aleksander Warma Consolidating Europe
  • Regional Unions of Small States
  • Peace as the Purpose of European Cooperation
  • Warma’s Influence in Finland and in the United States
  • Chapter 3. Estonia in the New Europe
  • Part III. Estonian Emigrants in The European Movement
  • Chapter 1. The Estonian National Committee of the European Movement
  • Chapter 2. Creating Contacts and Joining
  • An Estonian at The Hague Congress
  • A Baltic Detour to Europe
  • Chapter 3. Inside the European Movement
  • The Central and Eastern European Commission
  • The Special Committee in the Council of Europe
  • European Culture and Anti-Communism
  • The Long Last Years in the European Movement
  • Chapter 4. The Outsider’s View
  • Relations with American Organizations
  • Following the Economic Community
  • Chapter 5. Uniting the Divided Continent
  • Part IV. Conclusions
  • Estonians for European Union?
  • List of abbreviations
  • Bibliography
  • Indexes of places and persons

← 8 | 9 → Acknowledgements

This monograph at hand is based on my doctoral thesis defended at the University of Turku in May 2011. The introduction with the list of articles is available here: [https://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/69598] (all the links presented in this book have been verified on August 4, 2013). The thesis consisted of six separate articles and they have been greatly modified, but not totally rewritten, for this publication. While articles represent condensed studies written on a certain question, this monograph allows greater elaboration for reasoning and presentation. Additional material has been used, especially when extending the original time frame of the thesis, which ended at 1957, to the whole period of the Cold War. This period now includes the Soviet occupation of Estonia in full.

I am grateful to the two official opponents of my original doctoral thesis, Docent Pertti Grönholm and Professor Andres Kasekamp, for their insightful comments and remarks, many of which improved the development of the project which was eventually finalized in this book.

Furthermore, the assistance and support provided by the following people: Timo Soikkanen, Vesa Saarikoski, Vesa Vares, Eero Medijainen, Hain Rebas, Heinz Duchhardt, Idesbald Goddeeris, Thijs Rommens, Kari Alenius, Anita Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler, Toivo Nygård, Tuija Saresma, Jari Ojala, Juha Sihvola, Louis Clerc, Jan Hecker-Stamphel and Simo Klem deserves my acknowledgement as each one of these individuals was kindly on hand to help me with various issues on various occasions as this project was on its way to fruition. Additionally, as the dissertation writing process progressed, many editors and anonymous referees have commented on articles and thus contributed to its improvement and eventual publication. I am also grateful to Peter Lang and series editor, Hagen Schulz-Forberg, for accepting this book for publication within the series Europe plurielle/Multiple Europes.

The most significant portion of funding for my research came from Niilo Helanderin Säätiö, which provided two annual scholarships. Additionally, Turun Yliopistosäätiö, Suomen Akatemia and Alfred Kordelinin Säätiö provided travel grants. Both the scholarship at the Institute of European History in Mainz and my time as International Scholar at the KU Leuven were decisively important as I completed my doctoral thesis. With the thesis subsequently defended, I was to benefit from a month-long scholarship at the Herder-Institute in Marburg.

← 9 | 10 → Briefly returning to this book’s beginnings, my dissertation project started many years ago through the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students at the University of Tartu. With my doctoral dissertation defended, I was to again return to Tartu to pursue a post-doctoral project on Estonian emigrant groups. Hence, the final phase of this research project was supported by the European Union through the European Social Fund (Mobilitas grant No. MJD259). It was Dr. Olaf Mertelsmann who invited me to apply for this post and it has been a pleasure to work under his supervision ever since.

This “European” research demanded a lot of travelling to visit archives which, in sum, consisted of six (seven) countries. Through the course of this research, I gave a total of ten presentations at international conferences in places ranging from Toronto to Sofia, in Paris as well as in Berlin. I had the privilege of staying – free of charge – in the apartments of many wonderful people.

Besides travelling to foreign places, this research project demanded the reading of material in several different languages (English, German, French, Swedish and Finnish); I even had to learn a new language, Estonian. This book also carries references to books in Polish and Lithuanian, but solely to their English summaries. I would especially like to thank all of my foreign language teachers, not only for their valuable tuition, but for also inspiring my further studies; learning one language does not impair the learning of another one. Rather than mentioning everyone, the most significant examples of this are as follows: Marja-Leena Hellemaa for English, Tuula Takala-Nurminen for Swedish and German (both at the Kiukaisten lukio) as well as Katrin Jänese and Tiia Ristolainen for Estonian (both at the University of Tartu).

Nevertheless, despite the fact that I studied various languages, the text of my thesis has been greatly improved by various proofreaders. To list all of them would be impossible.

Vanhempani ovat tukeneet parhaansa mukaan pyrkimyksiäni ja ovat jälleen kiitoksensa ansainneet.

In Tartu, 50 kilometres from the EU-Russia border but 400 kilometres from the geographical centre of Europe.

← 10 | 11 → INTRODUCTION

Expanding the History of European Integration

The well-known Estonian geographer, August Tammekann, once defined Europe not in terms of politics but described the continent from the perspective of his own field of study; “In Europe, the sea penetrates everywhere, it is omnipresent, as opposed to the immense distance of wide inner Asia from the sea. For most of the year, the marine effect prevails in the European climate.”1 For Tammekann, Europe was the land of the shore, between the soil and water.

Tammekann managed to avoid the question of nationalities in his concept of Europe. Europe, however, undeniably consists of nations. It is one question to ask which nations belong to Europe, and another – more difficult question – to ponder relations between Europe and its nations. The concept of Europe unites the nationalities of a wider Western civilization, and from another perspective, without nations Europe would be merely a dull and wide open sea.

The same metaphor of concurrence was used by another Estonian, writer Karl Ristikivi and, incidentally, a former student of geography: “Meie ei tule kunagi tagasi siia randa. Aga nii kaua kui hingab meri, Sünnivad alati uued rannad”. (We shall never return to this shore, but as long as the sea breaths, new shores are born.)2 It is impossible to address in a universally comprehensive way how the concept of nationality has met with the concept of (supranational) Europe, because the details are in constant flux. At the same time, this predicament has always remained fundamentally the same. The tides of time may demand a different emphasis and sometimes retreat far away from to shore – only to return again as a devastating tsunami, as happened during the 1990s.

The nature of these encounters depends foremost on the nationality at hand and hence this study looks at the Estonian discussion on European unification. When the Estonians were talking of or imagining Europe, they instinctively included Estonia within it. The time period of this study covers the heyday of nationalism and nation-states starting from the peace ← 11 | 12 → settlements of World War I and ending with the confrontations of the Cold War. The programmes for European unification during this period include the Paneuropean Union, the Nazi New Europe and its resistance ideas, as well as the European Movement.

In the meantime, Estonia’s national history witnessed independent statehood (1920–1940), both Nazi (1941–1944) and Soviet (1940–1941, 1944–1991) occupations, and the subsequent emigration resulting from these occupations. This extensive change of external environment provides an excellent opportunity to underline the stability of the concept of Europe in the Estonian context. Estonian emigrants relied on European unification as a method to restore national sovereignty, and although they retreated from this stand during the late 1950s, they kept contact with, or at least their eye on, the developments of the European Movement and the European (Economic) Community long after.

Estonia eventually joined the European Union with nine other countries in 2004 – and adopted the Euro currency in 2011. Although Europe is politically united, it desires a cultural unity, the creation of which would benefit from a common history. Thus, there is an evident danger of presenting the Estonians participating in the European discussion as pioneers of the present situation of a post-Eastern enlargement European Union. To avoid this, this research brings forth the opposition voices and alternative opinions on European unification in the public discussion and relates this topic to the wider national discussion. Despite the variety between the international context and the national situation, this research addresses one principal question for the entire period: what were the reasons for Estonians either supporting or opposing European unification?

Three Programmes for Unification

The history of European integration has developed into a sub-field of historical research. However, it has also been strongly associated with the evolution of the European Union; a trend Jost Dülffer calls “the Christmas story of European integration”. Here the EU becomes complete in terms of both territory and depth, just as one candle is lit each week in December before full illumination is achieved on Christmas Day.3 It is clear that, before their own state becomes a member of the expanding Union, a citizen from outside the original six founding members finds it very difficult to relate to such an analogy.

The aim of the present research is to go beyond such teleology and institutional situations. This justifies the study of the discussions on ← 12 | 13 → European unification that took place before actual membership had even become possible. Examination of these discussions, as well as of failed attempts and proposals, may hopefully reveal reasons for the founding of European institutions and, furthermore, the meaning of Europe today – a meaning which is not wholly bound to the European Union. Even past meanings have relevance for us, since, as Alan Milward, one of the leading historians of European integration has put it, “systematic procedures and the way citizens choose within them are defined by history.”4

Naturally, European unification has been a topic of discussion since the Middle Ages; these discussions have been documented in earlier research. The plans outlined then were mostly concerned with Central European matters and they gained only marginal interest by the north of the Baltic Sea.5 This research starts in the heyday of nation states: the aftermath of World War I. The dynastic empires of Eastern Europe were replaced by several nation-states but, at the same time, various plans for restoring unity on the continent also emerged. These contrary phenomena highlighted the question: how should nation-states, the new core elements of political order, act towards each other and in a larger environment? Clashes were inevitable because the discourse of Europe mostly remained at the elitist level of civilizations but the materialization of the idea in the new democratic politics required the support of the masses. The focus of this research is not so much on the cooperation between states but rather on the ideas stressing the interdependence of nations. This question has faded over time but is still relevant today and, hopefully, examples from the period in which it was a paramount question might be useful when presenting new ideas for the current discussion.

Spatially, this research has two focuses. On the one hand, it concentrates on the programme of unification of the European centre and, on the other, the Estonian reactions to and discussions on this programme. Thus, the core of this research is actually on the national interpretations of these initiatives. This twofold approach attempts to offer both a new perspective of the history of these European ambitions and Estonia’s national history. The front cover picture is a view of Europe from space but from a non-traditional perspective. One way to look at the picture is to see Estonia at the front and Central Europe behind her in the distance. We can also simultaneously interpret the picture with only two dimensions; when Europe is on the top and Estonia is below her. Gradually, like all optical ← 13 | 14 → illusions, we become accustomed to the double meaning, and it’s hard to return to a single explanation.

Why the choice of Estonia? The peripheral aspect was evident from the beginning: i.e. how is a programme from the European core interpreted in a European borderland? Estonia was a most promising case because it actually has a double peripheral nature: it is not only far from the core but it also borders a significant, partly European neighbour, Russia. This factor was assumed as playing a considerable role in Estonia’s European discussion.

There were several further indicators showing that Estonia could be a fruitful case for enabling study of European discussion. The academic literature on European history contains a number of interesting references to Estonia. Europe: A History by Norman Davies is a comprehensive and renowned work on the history of Europe, both east and west. Davies includes several caption boxes and one of them is titled “Eesti”, Estonia in the indigenous language. Allegedly, Otto von Habsburg, then president of the Paneuropean Union, reminded his audience of the small European nation: “Don’t forget the Estonians!… they are the best of the Europeans.” Davies himself is sure that small nations can cope in the Union and that, reciprocally, they benefit the Union.6 In the actual research literature, Carl H. Pegg’s Evolution of the European Idea thoroughly surveys the newspapers in several European countries, and also informs on the bold initiative in the League of Nations in 1931 by Estonians Jaan Tõnisson and Kaarel Robert Pusta to use governmental powers to enhance European, instead of national, thinking.7

The Paneuropean Union, led by Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, was the most important promoter of the unification of Europe during the interwar period. Anita Ziegerhofer-Prettenthaler’s Botschafter Europas8 represents a comprehensive introduction to the Paneuropean Union but concentrates on the Viennese perspective. Its archives were confiscated by the Red Army in 1945 and they are presently located at the Russian State Military Archives (RGVA) in Moscow.9 Some part of the original material has been copied to the Historical Archives of the European Union in Florence, Italy. The correspondence between the Estonians and the Viennese centre dealt mostly with daily matters and thus a list of Estonian members could not be found.

← 14 | 15 → An initial glimpse at the primary sources gives indications of Estonian activity. The catalogue on Paneuropean Union in the Historical Archives of the EU includes two German-Estonian articles: “Was bedeutet Pan-Europa für Estland” (What Paneurope means for Estonia) by H.P. Lilienfeld-Toal in 1925 and “Paneuropa, die Juden und Palästina” (Paneurope, the Jews and Palestine) by P. Michelsohn, 1927.10 Regarding the latter, an unfortunate, yet usual, omission occurred: Philipp Michelson was actually from Estonia’s neighbouring country, Latvia. Hans-Paul Lilienfeld-Toal was a Baltic German, who had already left Estonia for studies in Germany. His short letter mainly supports the initiatives of Coudenhove-Kalergi and mostly ignores the Estonian situation.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
history international relations unification
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 216 pp.

Biographical notes

Pauli Heikkilä (Author)

Pauli Heikkilä is Research Fellow at the University of Tartu, Estonia. He defended his doctoral thesis at the University of Turku, Finland, in 2011 and has published extensively on the contemporary history of both Estonia and Finland.


Title: Estonians for Europe
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
220 pages